Mary Fern Posten would be astonished if she could see how the small restaurant she started in 1937 has grown.
That restaurant, Hasty Tasty, was located at 24th Avenue and 16th Street in Moline from 1937 until 2000. Eventually, it was run by her son, the late Gay Starkweather, and then his son, Galen Starkweather.
And over that time, things have evolved.
The restaurant is long gone, but the business has flourished and is now featuring a progressive vending concept Posten never could have imagined.
The company is providing micro-marketing vending services, which is like having a convenience store in the company lunchroom.
Since beginning a catering service in 1977, the company has provided quick-service foods in a variety of formats. The catering service began with mobile catering trucks across the metro area.
“We started out with two mobile trucks and had up to 10 trucks at one time,” he said.
Meanwhile, the company began making food for Valley Vending Co., in 1980 to service vending machines in the area. In 1990, Starkweather bought that company out when its owner retired.
“We just keep growing,” he added.
Four years ago, things changed again when the company, now called Valley Vending, began micro-marketing. It now has 28 micro-marketing routes in the Quad-Cities, and Morrison, Sterling-Rock Falls and Dixon, Illinois.
According its web site, it is an alternative to traditional vending, “like having your own market place right on site.”
Starkweather said each route equals a business client, such as Sears Manufacturing, the City of Davenport Public Works Department, AT&T and Jumer's Casino and Hotel. It is not open to the public, but rather designed for employees to grab a bite to eat at work.
Rather than a small selection of chips and candy bars, micro-marketing centers offer hundreds of choices of beverages, snacks and other food, and are stocked with fresh, nutritious selections like salads, fresh sandwiches, dairy products, fruit, yogurt, protein drinks, juices and more. All of the items are available 24/7.
Employees can make their selection, scan the product's bar code and pay via debit or credit card, or by using a cash-free thumb recognition system at the kiosk, said Larry Campbell, vending manager. Each lunchroom has security cameras installed to make sure items are not taken without payment.
“They do a good job, providing something good to customers,” he said.
One of the customers, Sears Manufacturing in Davenport, used to have a hostess working in the lunchroom when Valley provided regular vending services.
“They had two or three service calls per week. This virtually eliminates service calls,” Campbell said.
In addition to the catering customers, Campbell said they have 346 customers for regular vending machines, plus the 28 now receiving the micro-marketing.
“We have about 73,000 transactions a week for all vending machines,” Starkweather said.
Robbin Dunn, communications and preparedness manager for Davenport Public Works, said they have had the system in their lunchroom for about a year and like it.
“We have had little difficulty with it,” she said. “It gives employees healthier options. We evaluated a lot of other companies at the time. But with this, you can pick up the package and see the expiration date, or the ingredients if you are trying to watch your weight.
“So far, we have had pretty good service. There are more selections than before. It seems to be cost effective, as compared to a convenient store. It is just a nice amenity to have.”